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These Are the Defining Issues of the 2015 Federal Election

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I believe Canada needs a responsive, open and strong government that provides leadership for our transition to an innovation economy and a digital age. This is not a time for tinkering but a time of great change. To me, the defining issues of this election are clear.

1. I believe in open government. Using new technology, governments can and should open up their processes, thereby simultaneously lowering their costs and delivering better services in three ways: First, transparency speeds up the metabolism of government and strengthens trust with citizens. Second, the release of open data in the web enables the private sector, civil society and other levels of government to self-organize and create public value. Third, governments should open up to engage citizens, enabling a second era of Canadian democracy based on a culture of public deliberation and active citizenship.

2. At this time in our history we need public investments in our future to help stimulate entrepreneurship, kick-start our ailing economy, create job opportunities (especially for young people) and rebuild our digital and physical infrastructure for a new age. I agree with Nobel economists Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and others that focusing on balancing budgets in this time of slump is folly. The federal government can balance the budget through a vibrant, growing economy that generates significant new revenues for government.

3. I agree with the world's scientific community that climate change is real, caused by humans and is dangerous to the future of civilization. Canada should be a leader in the transition to a sustainable economy ending our dependence on fossil fuels, rather than being a diplomatic laggard that stonewalls international agreements and stymies progress. Canadian backpackers should once again be admired among other youth for having our flag on their backpacks, and we should all be able to take pride in our country's image on the international stage again.

4. Governments must work to achieve harmony through building a "vertical mosaic" of Canadian cultures rather than insisting on a melting pot. We must fiercely defend free speech and civil rights, for example the right to wear whatever clothing you want. Politicians who pit different communities against each other for their own political expediencies are abhorrent.

5. More prisons and harsher sentencing has not been shown to be an effective way to fight crime. We need to create the conditions where fewer Canadians become criminals. Simultaneously, we need law enforcement that embraces the digital revolution to engage citizens in creating safer communities. I find it curious that that "getting tougher on crime" is an important election issue given that the crime rate in Canada has been falling for many years.

6. This is the first time in modern history where there is wealth creation but also growing social inequality. Entrepreneurship and job creation programs can help, but this is fundamentally a distribution problem. Increasing taxes for the country's wealthiest might hurt short-term for people like me and other fortunate Canadians to whom these adjustments would apply. But I don't vote according to my class interests in elections, and I would encourage others in top tax brackets to follow suit. I vote for the party with the policies and principles that will make our country a better place for my children, and everyone else.

7. I believe in enhancing, not degrading the democratic process. For example, negative attack ads that distort opponent's views are toxic to Canadian democracy. Their effect is to suppress voting altogether, and to make citizens cynical about all politicians. This is contributing to a growing crisis of legitimacy of Canadian democracy where young people give up on democracy. I have argued for many years that eventually this will backfire, as voters understand their cynical intent. Given the ineffectiveness of negative advertising in this election I have proved to be correct. I also believe that governments should not use tax dollars to fund ads which are thinly veiled political propaganda.

8. Governments should operate on the basis of data, not ideology. We need to support scientific research and evidence-based government policy. The long form census should be reinstated. We must free our ideologies that undermine equal rights and opportunities for all Canadians regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.

9. Canada needs to reinvent many of its institutions for the digital economy. We need investments in healthcare to shift to a collaborative model where everyone is better informed, active, and involved in their own wellness rather than being passive patients in the system. We need to transform our schools and universities from an industrial model where teachers transmit knowledge, to one where teachers are enabled by technology to create collaborative learning environments. In utilities, the only way to reduce electricity costs is to shift towards a distributed power grid that looks more like the Internet than the centralized industrial models of today. While these are usually provincial issues the federal government can provide leadership for such transformation.

10. The world is conflicted, unequal, unjust and volatile. Canada needs a 21st-century foreign policy. Rather than focusing on military interventions to fight terrorists, our foreign policy should build a world with fewer terrorists. We must embrace new networked models of global problem-solving that involve partnerships of the private sector, civil society and governments collaborating globally. We should be a global leader in aiding people who are fleeing from war and other hardships. Canada's Second World War policy of rejecting Jewish refugees should remind us of the importance of embracing refugees regardless of religion.

Setting aside the issue of leadership, for these policy reasons I am voting Liberal in this federal election. I am very fortunate to have a world-class candidate, Chrystia Freeland, in my riding (University-Rosedale in central Toronto). As for leadership and Justin Trudeau not being "ready," I believe that line was engineered by cynical pollsters, crafting an attack ad strategy that has nothing to do with reality. This is, among other things, a case in point about why we need change in this country.

Don Tapscott is a Canadian entrepreneur, Inaugural Fellow at the Martin Prosperity Institute, and the author of 15 books, most recently The Digital Economy (20th anniversary edition). Follow him on Twitter: @dtapscott

A version of this article appeared in the Toronto Star on October 14, 2015.

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